Archive for the ‘Aging’ Category

How to Move Better with Age

Relaxing exercise

Limited mobility as you age can make it difficult to enjoy social situations with family and friends or even remain in your own home. But Mary Derbyshire, author of the new book “Agility at Any Age,” says “mindful moving” can help you turn back the clock to move with more agility and ease…and perhaps most importantly, with less pain.

Using the Alexander Technique, a method that teaches participants to identify and stop harmful habits that increase stress and pressure in the body and ultimately limit mobility, Derbyshire has been working with active adults and baby boomers for 20 years, providing instruction for more mobility and better quality of life.

“As we age, we’re told of the importance to move, but no one mentions the significance of paying attention to how we move,” she explains. “A few ergonomic adjustments, along with a slight change of mindset, can make simple movements like sitting, getting out of a chair or walking much easier and more enjoyable.”

Derbyshire, who teaches the Alexander Technique, sat down with us to share her insights on how to move better—and more often—starting today.

What movements tend to be the toughest to engage in as we age?

Everyday [movements] like sitting or getting in and out of a chair are some of the most common moves that can be difficult to tackle. Walking is also tough. I’m not referring to power walking or walking for long distances, but walking around the house or a grocery store can be tough. And without the ability to sit and/or walk comfortably, a person can quickly find themselves losing their independence due to immobility.

Are there modifications to make sitting more comfortable and easy?

Absolutely! Many of us aren’t sitting correctly. You need to sit on your “sit bones” which will promote sitting up straight and ultimately more comfortably.

How can a person tell if they’re sitting on their “sit bones”?

You can locate them by sitting in a chair and sliding hands under your butt cheeks, palms up. Press lightly to feel the boney bits under each cheek, which are the sit bones. You have to sit with your weight on those to sit comfortably. However, most of the time we sit further back, toward the sacrum.

We also tend to sit on furniture that’s too soft or that’s designed for fashion but not function. Chairs tend to slope back so you have to haul yourself forward when you want to stand up. To combat that, I recommend a sitting wedge, which can be found online or some drugstores, that’s firm and higher in the back than the front. That promotes you sitting on your sit bones and ultimately makes sitting and getting out of chair easier.

Once a person is out of their chair, what changes can they implement to make walking easier?

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart to give you a broad and steady base. And stand so you’re putting weight on the balls of your feet as well as your heels. Too often, we stand with our weight centered on our heels, which can contribute to fatigue and pain. If you have to stand for long periods of time, or [if] standing is difficult even for a few minutes, you can shift your weight over the arch of your foot from the ball to the heel to reduce fatigue and increase comfort.

It’s also important to walk through your big toe to improve balance and further reduce fatigue.

Many walk with their toes sticking up in the air, which doesn’t engage the big toe. And if you don’t engage that toe, taking your weight all the way through it, you’re not taking a complete stride.

Is there a way to know if you’re not walking through your big toe?

If you have a hole in your socks at the toes or a wear spot on your slippers, you’re not walking all the way through your big toe. It’s important to remember your big toe has two important jobs: it helps with balance and propels you forward. And along with increasing the risk of falling, not walking through your entire foot means you’re not being propelled forward and you’re belaboring walking.

Are there other ways to improve balance and reduce the risk of falls?

Everyone over the age of 45 should work on maintaining or improving their balance by challenging it. One way to do that is by standing on one foot. For safety, you should do that when you’re near something steady and anchored to grab onto if necessary, like a kitchen counter or table.

You also want to maintain flexibility in your ankles, which greatly impacts balance. If your ankles are stiff, you’re less able to maintain your balance. Work on that by tapping your toes while sitting watching television or eating dinner. You can also gently flex the foot to the left and right.

By incorporating these small changes, you’ll be better able to sit and get out of a chair, which means you’re more likely to stand and then walk. And that improved and increased movement will bleed over into every aspect of your life from grocery shopping, attending religious services or watching your grandchild’s dance recital.

 

Mental Stimulation May Help Seniors Prevent Cognitive Decline

Woman playing Sudoku on tablet computer

 

If you or a loved one suffer from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or know someone who does, you understand the frustrations that come with it. The condition can cause problems in memory, language, thinking, and judgment – even while you’re still able to perform everyday activities.

MCI also is considered an intermediate stage between the normal cognitive decline of aging and dementia, of which the most common type is Alzheimer’s disease. And having MCI may also increase your risk of developing dementia later in life.

But a recent study has delivered good news when it comes to cognitive decline. The study by researchers at the Mayo Clinic showed that older U.S. adults were less likely to develop MCI if they engaged in mentally stimulating activities once or twice a week.

Those who engaged in mental stimulation, the researchers noted, may be protecting themselves from “new-onset MCI.”

Certain Activities Linked to Lower MCI Risk

Research has already shown that mental stimulation is associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline and dementia. But there had been few studies about the possible connection between mental stimulation and MCI until the Mayo Clinic undertook its research that began in 2006 and lasted just over a decade.

Researchers defined mentally stimulating activities to include computer use, reading books, craft activities, playing games and social activities such as going to movies and the theater.

Results showed that computer use was associated with a 30 percent decreased risk of new-onset MCI, a 28 percent decreased risk with craft activities, 23 percent with social activities, and 22 percent with gameplay.

The Mayo Clinic researchers were unsure why certain activities produced a lower risk of developing MCI than other types of mental stimulation tested. However, their findings suggested that the specific technical and manual skills required for an activity such as computer use may be linked with the decreased risk.

The study also showed that mental stimulation may also lower the risk of MCI in people who carry the gene APOE e4, which is linked to Alzheimer’s.

What is MCI?

As mentioned, people with MCI experience noticeable declines in memory and thinking skills but not enough to greatly interfere with their everyday activities. Some people with MCI never get worse.

What causes MCI? The fact is, there’s no single cause for it. Evidence suggests that the condition develops from similar changes in the brain as those seen in patients with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Other changes associated with MCI include shrinkage of the hippocampus – the region of the brain important to memory – enlargement of the brain’s ventricles, and a lower use of glucose.

MCI Symptoms

If you experience any or all of the following symptoms, you may have cognitive issues that indicate MCI. A medical professional can help evaluate your symptoms.

  • More forgetful than usual (i.e., forgetting a person’s name)
  • Forgetting important appointments and social engagements
  • You lose your train of thought or the thread of a conversation
  • Increased feelings of being overwhelmed by making decisions, planning the steps to complete a task or interpreting instructions
  • You have trouble finding your way around in familiar environments
  • You show poor judgment or become increasingly impulsive

People with MCI may also exhibit signs of depression, irritability and aggression, anxiety, and apathy

Risk Factors for MCI

There are certain risk factors that may increase your likelihood of developing MCI, including age, but also:

  • Having a form of the gene APOE-e4, which is also linked to Alzheimer’s
  • Medical conditions and lifestyle factors such as diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, a lack of physical exercise, and little or no participation in mentally and socially stimulating activities.

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The Mayo Clinic study clearly indicated that there is a connection between mentally stimulating activities and a decreased risk of MCI, including a decreased risk of people who carry the APOE e4 gene.

 

 

5 Ways to Make Bathrooms More Accessible for Seniors

Modern bathroom walk-in shower with steam modern system.

 

Bathrooms require special attention in order to meet the living needs of a senior who wants to age in place. Everyday routines like bathing, washing up and brushing teeth can be challenging for some older adults in a standard bathroom.

Luckily, there are a number of ways to make bathroom faucets more user-friendly for seniors with mobility issues. The design tips shown here should be part of an overall design philosophy for aging in place bathrooms that include appropriately placed grab bars, nonslip flooring and adequate lighting.

1. Handheld Showerheads

Replace a wall-mounted showerhead with a handheld model. A handheld showerhead attached to a pole allows the user to adjust the showerhead’s height when standing or to use it as a handheld model when sitting or standing. Here are some other user-friendly changes that can help older adults:

 

  • Combine the showerhead with built-in or portable shower chairs to make bathing more comfortable.
  • Bathtubs and walk-in showers should have non-slip finishes on the floors, and there should be grab bars on the walls in and around the tub or shower to provide stability.

 

2. Lever Controls

Lever-shaped faucet handles in the tub, shower and at the vanity sink are easier to use than smaller, round knobs. Controls shaped like a cross are another easy-to-grip option. No matter which style you choose, the following guidelines can help:

 

  • Shower and bath controls should be large and easy to operate.
  • Hot and cold taps should be labeled with large text and/or bright colors so that someone with weak eyesight can easily distinguish between the two.
  • To reduce the senior’s need to bend or stretch, place controls for tubs and showers as close to the room side of the fixture as possible.

 

3. Easy-to-Reach Vanity Faucets

Older adults who are mobile can use a standard floor-mounted vanity, but it’s helpful if the sink is on the narrow side so the senior does not have to bend over to reach the faucet controls. For someone who uses a wheelchair, a wall-mounted sink or a vanity that provides adequate room for the chair is necessary. Shallow, narrow sinks are best for someone in a wheelchair. Here are some other vanity guidelines to keep in mind:

 

  • Under-vanity storage is often inaccessible for a person with limited mobility. In those cases, consider wall-mounted cabinets or shelves instead.
  • Avoid sharp edges on vanity countertops.
  • A contrasting band of color around the edge of the countertop helps seniors with weak eyesight identify the edge of the fixture.

 

4. Walk-in Tubs and Showers

The standard bathtub/shower combination found in most homes is a real challenge to use comfortably for someone with even minor mobility issues. If possible, the standard tub should be replaced with one equipped with a side door to allow for easy access. Some of these models also include built-in seating.

Another option is to replace the tub with a roll-in shower. Since these showers don’t have a threshold, a person can roll their wheelchair into the shower and transfer to a shower chair. Both options are a major expense, and adding a roll-in shower will require using up a lot of floor space in the bathroom.

However, the less cost-intensive addition of grab bars and nonslip surfaces can also make standard tubs and showers more user-friendly for seniors. Here are some other suggestions:

 

  • Eliminate the need to reach or get in and out of the tub or shower by placing built-in or wall-mounted shelves or niches for bath supplies in the shower or tub enclosure.
  • Install lighting fixtures in the ceiling above tubs and showers. Use fixtures rated for wet locations.
  • Place a vertical grab bar near the entrance to the tub or shower to make entering and exiting easier.

 

5. Scald Protection

Tub and shower controls should be equipped with scald protection technology. Older adults are more susceptible to burns from too-hot water. And sudden changes in a building’s water pressure, such as when a toilet flushes while someone is in the shower, can lead to burns. These steps can help keep the water temperature safe:

 

  • The thermostats on many water heaters are set too high, so check the unit and lower the temperature. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends a setting of 120 degrees Fahrenheit (50 Celsius). The water will cool somewhat as it moves the water heater to the faucet, where it will be mixed with cold water. This step can reduce serious burns, but it will not eliminate them on its own.
  • Faucets equipped with a thermostatic water mixer monitor the water’s temperature. When the monitor senses a change in temperature due to fluctuating water pressure, the mixer compensates so that the temperature stays about the same.

 

Taking some basic precautions when designing or remodeling a bathroom for seniors will give them the ability and confidence to live more comfortably and independently.

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Fran Donegan is a DIY-for-the-home authority, currently writing for The Home Depot. Fran is a longtime DIY author, and has written several books, including Paint Your Home. Fran’s tips are geared to provide you with numerous options for bathroom remodeling, bath safety and organization. To research a variety of bathroom vanities, you can visit the Home Depot website here.

 

The Positive Impact of Social Technology for Seniors

SocialSenior

 

As my mom puts it, she “has bad luck with technology.” She may live in Silicon Valley and be married to a software programmer, but Mom has always struggled with anything tech-related.

Mom uses a computer from the early 2000s. She needs help to send emails and format documents. Every time I visit, she has something for me to fix. A year ago, Mom got her first smartphone.

And now? You can’t separate Mom from her phone. She messages her friends more often than I do. She’s now a pro at all things social media.

Social media has completely changed the way Mom keeps in touch with her friends. I’ve witnessed firsthand how big of a change it’s made in her life. And she’s not alone—seniors across the globe are more connected than ever. Here’s why you should encourage your aging loved ones to get into social media.

Reconnecting with old friends

One of the first things Mom did was to look up her friends from high school. She had moved from New Jersey to California and fell out of touch with them decades ago. The day she found them on Facebook, I don’t think I’d ever seen her so excited.

Mom reconnected with her best friend, learned that her high school reunion was coming up and spent hours learning what her friends had been up to over the years. She has reconnected with her hometown in a way she never thought possible.

Keeping in touch with family

My mother loves her sister, but their schedules don’t allow for regular phone calls. Luckily, messaging apps have come to the rescue. Between sharing pictures of their meals, political cartoons and daily cat memes, Mom and her sister are closer than ever. They can share their lives without having to sync their schedules.

Learning about local events

Food trucks in town? A sale at the local antique store? With event notifications coming directly to her phone, Mom knows about everything that’s going on. In fact, she knows more about local happenings than I do!

Mom used to always learn about events a day or two too late. With her phone’s calendar, she no longer worries about what she’s missing. She’s up-to-date on what’s going on now through next month.

Staying on top of neighborhood news

Mom is a member of our local Nextdoor group. She and the neighbors share warnings about rowdy kids, notices about construction, sightings of potential thieves and anything else of interest to the neighborhood. Mom loves to share the crazy stories she finds in the app and always forwards the useful tidbits about traffic or construction. Her neighborhood group has enhanced her connection with her community.

Organizing fun with friends

Mom used to see her church friends just once a week, but not anymore! Thanks to social media, Mom and her friends are constantly going out to dinner or traveling to interesting places together.

I’ve watched my mother’s network of friends expand and deepen like never before. If Mom is ever lonely, she is just a message away from good pals and laughs.

Keeping entertained

Bringing Mom on a long car trip? Chances are, she will be “liking” photos and playing videos on her smartphone. I’ve noticed that my mother no longer complains of being bored—there is too much for her to do online. Social media is perfect for filling the gaps in her day.

Learning about the issues

Mom is big into politics, and social media helps her follow her favorite politicians, social commentators and authors. She keeps up on the issues and learns about current events as they happen rather than waiting for the nightly news recap.

Finding work

For many seniors, retirement can be boring. Sixty-five may be the official retirement age, but that doesn’t mean everyone 65 and over automatically wants to stop working. The Internet can help connect older adults with opportunities that canbe tough to find otherwise.

For the best health and quality of life, seniors need to keep their brains and bodies active. Working (or volunteering) allows seniors to share their knowledge, make some extra income and give back to their community.

After some online searching, Mom joined our town’s education committee to influence how the coming generation is taught. She loves being a voice for change.

Staying active with social media

Before social media, my mother spent most of her time reading at home. She would go out to church once a week, and that was pretty much it.

Now, with her smartphone in hand, Mom is always doing something interesting. I’ll come back home to visit and she won’t be there—Dad will tell me she’s off at one of her meetings.

Mom is making a real difference in her community. She’s involved in her town’s school board, joined a board of directors and is part of the leadership community at her church. Her smartphone and social media helped make that possible.

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Tracy Layden is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. Born and raised in Silicon Valley, Tracy leads the marketing efforts at Alert-1, a personal safety technology and consulting firm dedicated to helping seniors live safely and independently. Tracy holds a degree in mathematics from Scripps College and is an accomplished ballroom dancer and equestrian.

 

 

3 At-Home Balance and Strength Exercises for Seniors

Stretches

 

My Great Uncle Bud used to always say, “It’s hell to get old.” He griped incessantly about his loss of strength, poor balance, and frequent trips to the hospital from falls. Yet his experience, that of an elderly person in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, was far different from today’s seniors. We know now that a body can be rebuilt at any age, and that most of the physical problems seniors experience are the result of inactivity.

Why does the body break down during inactivity? It’s a process known as the Use-Disuse Principle. In a nutshell, it means that the body will only hold onto the parts of itself that are frequently used. If a certain muscle group isn’t used for a long time, the body will discard those muscles to use the energy that would have been consumed by them elsewhere. So the cliché “Use it or lose it” is ultimately true.

Over the years, I have worked with a number of seniors who began a fitness journey at their doctor’s recommendation. Most had never exercised a day in their life, and preliminary fitness tests revealed severe muscular deficiencies. The majority could not easily perform simple movements such as sitting and standing. In light of this, most of the traditional gym equipment was off-limits until these older adults could regain some basic strength and stability. To help them get started, I created three at-home exercises to include in their daily routines.

The following three very basic exercises are designed to help seniors who have never participated in fitness programs, or who haven’t exercised in a while, to improve the strength and balance in their legs, core, and shoulders before using a gym. If the following exercises are performed every day for about a month, the risk of injury and overtraining when starting a more intense fitness routine—such as one designed by a personal trainer—will fall substantially. None of these exercises require any extra equipment.

The Toothbrush Challenge

Dentists recommend brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes each session. This amounts to four minutes of nothing other than standing in front of a mirror and staring at ourselves. The Toothbrush Challenge makes use of this time to do a very basic strength and balance exercise that can help restore a senior’s stability fairly quickly.

While brushing your teeth, set a timer for one minute. During that minute stand only on one leg, with the knee slightly flexed (DO NOT LOCK OUT THE KNEE), and hold that position. Be sure to perform this exercise in a place where you can catch yourself in case you lose your balance. Once the first minute is up, set the timer again and repeat the exercise with the other leg.

The first few times you perform this exercise, you probably won’t last the entire minute. What’s important is that you try to keep balancing until the end of the minute. If your other foot touches the ground, reset and keep holding. Do this exercise every time you brush your teeth. After the first week, you should feel a marked improvement in your ability to balance and hold yourself on one leg. After one month, your legs will be far stronger and stable, and from there you can attempt other exercises at a gym.

The Textbook Toss-up

Shoulder injuries are a common complaint among seniors. The slightest tweak from overreaching for something in the back of the cupboard, or even from sleeping in an awkward position, can drastically hinder your quality of life. Weak shoulders are also prone to injury when exercising at a gym, so it’s a good idea to strengthen those muscles in a low-risk manner. The Text Book Toss-up is a great way to accomplish this.

Set a timer for one minute. Using a book about the size of a standard bible, grasp the sides firmly with both hands and extend your arms straight out ahead of you. Without bending your elbows, slowly lift the book above your head until you reach 90 degrees, then return to the starting position. Once returned to the starting position, bend your elbows and slowly bring the book to your chest. From there, extend back out to the starting position. Without dropping the book, repeat these two movements in sequence until the timer runs out.

The first few times you do this, you’ll feel a deep burn in your shoulders. Only perform three repetitions of the exercise at first and see how you feel the next day. Over time, assuming you do this every day, you should grow strong enough to begin setting the timer to two or even three minutes. If you’re really feeling strong, swap out a book for something heavier, like an encyclopedia, textbook, or atlas.

The Restless Leg (Abs Workout)

The abdominal muscles are crucial to good balance. As such, it’s important to strengthen them, but many seniors may struggle with traditional floor exercises such as ab crunches. To solve this problem, I created the Restless Leg Abs Workout. It’s designed to allow seniors to strengthen their abs and legs in a single movement, all from the comfort of their own bed.

Lying in bed, place your hands underneath the small of your back and stretch your legs out as straight as possible. Make a mental note to flex (or suck in) your stomach muscles and hold them that way. Raise one leg up without bending the knee and hold it for one minute in that position. At the end of the minute, reset the timer and repeat with the other leg. Do this three times with each leg.

The key to this exercise is to keep the stomach muscles engaged throughout. This means keeping your stomach sucked in while holding one leg off the bed. Again, over time this will become easier for you, and as you improve you may move on to more challenging and strenuous exercises.

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Christophe Adrien, also known as The Viking Trainer, is a Certified Fitness Trainer (CFT) and Certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition (SFN) with a Master’s Degree from Oregon State University. He is a lifelong health and fitness enthusiast who regularly contributes to publications such as 1-800-HOMECARE™1-800-HOSPICE™ and Baby Boomer Cafe, among others.

 

10 Steps to Communicate Your End-of-Life Wishes

ToughConvo

 

Communicating your end-of-life wishes is often among the most difficult conversations you can have with your family and loved ones. It’s also a conversation that many avoid until it’s too late.

The importance of clearly laying out your end-of-life preferences cannot be overstated, however. And doing so before you a suffer a life-threatening illness or other crisis will help reduce anxiety and doubt for family members who may be confused about final wishes that haven’t been clearly expressed.

Perhaps the most important question when it comes to communicating end-of-life wishes is, “how to do it?” Fortunately, there are a variety of steps you can take and proven methods that should make the process easier for you and your family. Getting started now, before it’s too late, should be a priority.

  1. Plan ahead

There’s no time like the present when it comes to letting your loved ones know about your final wishes is now. You can start by drawing up a living will that states your treatment and care preferences if you should ever be in a position where you can’t speak for yourself.

It’s also important to have a durable power of attorney in place that appoints one family member or other trusted person to make medical decisions for you in the event you’re unable to do so. Take all the time you need to reflect on what’s most important to you, then get the paperwork started.

  1. Be clear about what you want

It’s not easy to think about becoming too ill to make healthcare and other important decisions. But a critical injury or debilitating illness can happen to anyone at any time, and it’s vital to be clear about your wishes as soon as you can in case the unthinkable happens to you.

  1. Finding the right opportunities

While finding the right time to talk about your end-of-life issues can be a challenge, here are some events that can present opportunities to sit down with family and loved ones:

*Gatherings or time spent related to milestones such as the birth of a child, marriage, death of a loved one, retirement, anniversaries, etc.

*During holiday gatherings when many family members may be present.

*When creating your will or other estate planning.

*When a major illness requires that you or another family member move out of the home and into a long-term care setting – such as an assisted living community or a nursing home – or when a friend or family member is facing a serious illness or end-of-life situation.

  1. Talk often

It’s important to have end-of-life conversations early and to ensure that everyone understands your wishes. Moreover, your preferences may change over time and create the need for regular discussions on the subject.

  1. Ask permission

Again, discussing end-of-life issues isn’t necessarily easy, and it may make some of your family members uncomfortable. Asking your loved ones for permission before diving into the topic reassures them that you respect and honor everyone’s desires.

  1. Keep the purpose in mind

Your conversations with loved ones should address two important goals: making sure that your financial and healthcare wishes are expressed and honored, and providing them with the information and confidence they need to make future decisions.

  1. Find an Appropriate Setting

Find a quiet, comfortable place to have discussions about end-of-life wishes – preferably somewhere private and without distractions. A noisy restaurant or other public places is probably not the right setting to broach this tough topic.

  1. Be a good listener

Whether you’re discussing your end-of-life wishes, listening to another family member express theirs, or getting feedback from family and friends, it’s important to listen carefully. Make every effort to hear and understand what your loved ones are saying, and make clear to them that it’s important to you. If you’re listening to someone else,express their wishes, try to reaffirm what they’re saying and acknowledge their right to make life choices, even if you disagree with them.

  1. Know your audience

Some loved ones and family members may want to discuss end-of-life wishes in private rather than in a group setting. Use your knowledge of the people involved to figure out the best way express your wishes.

  1. Let others set the pace

If you’re in the role of listening to a family member express their wishes, follow their lead. Avoid correcting the person or becoming argumentative if they say something you don’t agree with.

Growing Number of Seniors Using Marijuana

Close-up of doctor holding a bag of medical marijuana

 

Anita Mataraso began using marijuana therapeutically 25 years ago to ease the physical discomfort and other symptoms of Lyme disease. The disease left her with side effects, including nerve damage and fibromyalgia that she had trouble treating with conventional medications.

Though at the time she wasn’t aware of the medical applications of marijuana, Mataraso knew that it was one of the few things that made her symptoms feel better. “When I smoked, I was able to escape the pain in my body for a couple hours, and it was very helpful to me in that regard,” she says.

More than two decades later, Mataraso is now the director of the Rossmoor Medical Marijuana Education and Support Club at the Rossmoor senior community in Walnut Creek, Calif. She now finds herself at the forefront of a growing trend of seniors turning to medical marijuana for recreational and especially therapeutic purposes. The club has grown from 20 members just five years ago to a roster of 500 people. “Our mission is to educate people about cannabis and how it may impact their lives, particularly in terms of senior issues,” says Mataraso.

A National Trend

Statistics suggest that the membership growth Mataraso has seen at Rossmoor reflects a national trend. The prevalence of past-year cannabis use among adults age 50 or older rose significantly between 2006 and 2013, increasing 57.8 percent for adults age 50–64 and a whopping 250 percent for those 65 and older, according to a study released by the National Institutes of Health.

Meanwhile, public opinion on the legalization of marijuana has shifted dramatically over the years. As of October 2016, 57 percent of Americans say that marijuana use should be legal, while 37 percent say it should be illegal, according to a Pew Research Center Survey. A decade ago, popular opinion was nearly the reverse: 60 percent opposed legalization and just 32 percent were in favor.

As opinions change, so does the perceived stigma surrounding pot use.

“Probably the single most motivating factor changing the way people think of marijuana is that, in many jurisdictions, the regulated use of marijuana by qualified patients or any adult has shifted from illegal activity to legal activity,” says Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws, or NORML, an organization that seeks to legalize responsible marijuana use among adults. “Many seniors who in the past were ineligible to use marijuana or who were violating the law are now able to do so,” he explains.

Why Marijuana Use is Growing

Armentano cites two other reasons for the increase in pot use among seniors: a growing awareness of the perceived therapeutic applications of the drug and the fact that many baby boomers are resuming marijuana use after many decades as they retire and their children are grown.

“This is a population that, in many cases, has some past firsthand experience with cannabis,” he says. “But the majority of adults ceased their use because they entered the workforce at 20 or 30 and had kids. Now that the children are grown up, and the folks are retired, they’re returning to the use of a substance they once enjoyed.”

A number of states have legalized marijuana for medicinal use, and as of November 2016, four states had legalized recreational marijuana use for adults. Yet federal law, through the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, continues to list it as a Schedule 1 drug—in the same category as heroin.

Officially, the federal government finds that marijuana has no medicinal value, and research on the therapeutic properties of the drug has been limited in the U.S.

Even so, research and anecdotal evidence points to marijuana being a potentially useful treatment for many common medical conditions that seniors grapple with, including chronic pain.

“There is also an awareness that many conventional medications that are prescribed possess a litany of significant and adverse side effects, and many older adults are making a calculation that they can substitute therapeutic cannabis for some of their other medication,” says Armentano.

Cheryl Shuman, founder of the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club and the founder of marijuana activist group Moms for Marijuana International, has noticed an uptick in demand from seniors for products they can use therapeutically, so much so that she plans to roll out a line of products designed specially for seniors. “Seniors more than any other group can benefit the most because when you consider the fact that many of them have glaucoma, Alzheimer’s, dementia, pain—and marijuana works,” she says.

Shuman began using therapeutic marijuana after receiving a diagnosis of ovarian cancer at age 47. She was visiting her elderly parents at the time and was rushed into emergency surgery. Her prognosis was not good, and doctors advised her to consider hospice care.

After receiving her diagnosis, Shuman reconnected with a high school friend who suggested she try marijuana with a high level of cannabidiol (CBD), which is not psychoactive and is reported to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. “By month two, not only was I walking and doing light exercise, I was showering on my own again, working on computer and doing yoga,” she says. “Within 90 days, I was in full remission and able to go back to work full-time.”

At first, Shuman’s parents were skeptical of the effectiveness of marijuana and wary of its illegality. They even refused to allow her into their home. But after seeing the success their daughter had using the drug, their views changed. “It went from my parents not allowing me in the house to my mom calling me everyday and asking about my progress,” she says. “My mom even asked if I thought it could work for her.”

Trend Expected to Grow

The legal strides marijuana legislation has made have made it much easier for people to explore and discuss their use of the drug. And though some stigma and stereotypes surrounding pot remain among seniors, Armentano says he expects the trend toward greater acceptance and use to stay. “Support is only going to grow in the future,” he says, pointing out that younger generations are even more supportive of pot use than seniors and baby boomers.

Mataraso agrees. “The trend will continue and the research and the science is going to knock out the [misinformation] that’s been going around all these years,” she says.

 

 

 

10 Great Things About Getting Older

The senior years, like all stages of life, have their challenges. But aging also comes with its fair share of benefits. Here are 10 great things about getting older.

 

1. Wisdom Comes with Age

Portrait of senior man sitting looking off to side

 

With age comes wisdom, and it’s not just because older adults have more life experience to draw on than younger generations. As the body ages, it produces fewer hormones. Lower levels of estrogen, testosterone and adrenaline make it easier to make rational, rather than emotional, decisions.

 

2. Seniors Report Being Happier

Three Asian seniors smiling in a park

 

Research suggests that seniors are the happiest generation. In a 2008 University of Chicago study, adults who were 57 or older reported a higher level of contentment than younger respondents, and many said they were pleased with how their life turned out.

 

3. Seniors Often Pay Less

Portrait of elderly man and his wife with latop and plastic card looking at camera

 

Many organizations offer senior discounts, which is a nice way of showing appreciation for the elderly. Although some senior discounts may seem small, with so many companies offering them, these price reductions can add up to significant savings.

 

4. Others’ Opinions Matter Less

Joyful senior man riding a skateboard

 

While you probably value the opinions of close family members or friends, many older adults say they stop caring as much about what acquaintances or strangers think of them. Chances are, you’ll feel more comfortable sharing your thoughts as an older adult than you may have in years past.

 

5. Getting Older Brings Fewer Major Decisions

Senior man sleeping in hammock, side view

 

By the time you reach your senior years, you’ll probably have already made most of the major decisions in life. All of the questions you faced as a younger adult — what career to pursue, whom to marry, whether and when to have children — are mostly behind you. Not having to figure out these major life questions can mean less stress overall.

 

6. With More Years Come More Hours in the Day

Senior gardener with a spade

 

Retirement and old age tend to bring a blessing that most people don’t enjoy from the time they start kindergarten: more time. Retired seniors have more time to spend with the people they cherish and take part in the activities they love.

 

7. Grandchildren Are a Blessing

GrandmaGrandson

 

If children are a blessing, grandchildren are a double blessing. Grandparents typically enjoy spending time with their progeny, while being able to send them home when visits are over. Many seniors who don’t have grandchildren even choose to invest in kids by volunteering or being involved in other younger relatives’ lives.

 

8. A Second Chance

Teacher with tablet and students at an adult education class

 

As George Eliot once wrote, “It’s never too late to be what you might have become.” With the time that retirement provides, seniors have a second chance to be whatever they want to be. It’s a rare opportunity to invest a lot of time in a project or cause, or to learn something new.

 

9. Government Programs for Seniors

doctor with tonometer and senior woman at hospital

 

Not all seniors are independently wealthy, but all qualify for Social Security and Medicare. These government programs provide at least some guaranteed financial provision and health insurance for seniors.

 

10. More Opportunities to Give Back

Happy volunteer grandmother smiling at camera

 

The senior years provide plenty of opportunities to give to others. With more time, greater wisdom and in some cases more disposable income, there are many ways older adults can give back. Whether passing on a family heirloom, imparting advice or volunteering with a local organization, giving is one of the most rewarding things you can do in your golden years.

Contrary to popular belief, getting older has many benefits. If you’re approaching your senior years, there’s no need to view them with dread. Instead, why not embrace this time for the many advantages that come along with it?

 

6 Smart Strategies to Protect Your Aging Loved One from Falls

ManWithCane

 

Falling is a major health issue for seniors – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that some 2.8 million people 65 and older in the U.S. receive emergency medical treatment for fall-related injuries each year. And unlike for younger adults, falls can spell serious health consequences for seniors. Indeed, broken hips and serious head injuries are not uncommon results, which can be debilitating and necessitate ongoing rehabilitative care.

In honor of National Falls Prevention Day, we’re highlighting some of the best strategies to help keep your aging loved ones safe and avoid falls.

1. Emphasize Exercise

Perhaps the most important thing an older adult can do to lower their risk of falling is to get regular exercise. Exercise can help improve strength, balance and flexibility, all of which can help a senior avoid falling. It can also help your aging loved one keep their weight in check, which means less pressure on bones and joints, another factor that can affect the likelihood of falls.

Your loved one’s doctor can check to make sure that he or she is healthy enough to start exercising and recommend some activities to start with.

2. Fall-proof Their Home

When it comes to fall prevention, one of the first places to start is by evaluating the person’s surroundings and making modifications where needed. Whether your loved one lives in their own house, with you and your family or in a senior living facility, there are a number of measures you can take to make the home safer.

Some key fall-proofing moves include:

  • Ridding the home of tripping hazards like loose rugs, electrical cords, or clutter on the floor
  • Having grab bars in the shower and raised toilet seats installed
  • Placing no-skid mats in the shower and
  • Installing railings along hallways and stairways
  • Making sure there is a ramp or other easy access-way to the home’s entrances
  • Ensuring there is proper lighting and easily accessible light switches throughout the home

3. Re-evaluate Medications

Another important step is to determine whether any medications your loved one takes have side effects or interactions that may raise their odds of falling. Sedatives, tranquilizers and antidepressants are common examples of medications that may affect an older adult’s balance.

Talk to your loved one’s doctor or pharmacist to gauge whether any of the medicines they’re taking (both prescription and over-the-counter) fall under this category, and discuss potential alternatives that don’t carry the same risks.

4. Monitor Vision Health

If an older adult has trouble seeing where they’re going or spotting obstacles in their path, he or she is more likely to suffer a fall.

Older eyes receive less light to the retina, making it tougher to catch these hazards. But while age-related vision issues are to be expected, making sure your loved one is up to date with eye check-ups and that they have the proper corrective eyewear can go a long way toward helping them avoid falls.

If he or she suffers from low vision, consider consulting a low vision eye care specialist about ways to avoid falls.

 5. Check for Unhappy Feet

Similar to vision health, having healthy, pain-free feet is another big factor in preventing falls. Aging feet typically have less cushioning and are more likely to swell or have toe deformities due to muscle imbalance. All of these factors can make walking more painful and can mess with a senior’s balance.

A health care professional can recommend toe and foot exercises to help boost range of motion and prevent deformities. Additionally, properly fitted footwear can make falls less likely, and shoe inserts can help keep the foot cushioned to ease any pain your love done may experience while walking.

 6. Consider Assistive Devices

If you notice that your elderly loved one seems to walk unsteadily or if he or she needs help getting around, chances are they’ll benefit from an assistive device such as a walker or cane. Make sure that they meet with a doctor, physical therapist or occupational therapist who can help them find the right device for them.

While your loved one may initially resist the idea of using a walker or cane if they’ve never needed one before, these devices can actually help boost their confidence and independence.

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A number of risk factors can contribute to whether an older adult will suffer a fall, so the fewer risk factors your aging loved one has, the safer he or she will be. Though common among seniors, falls are not inevitable. Helping your loved one take the proper steps can make a difference in preventing falls and serious injuries and ensuring that their quality of life is the best it can be.

A Functional and Fashionable Kitchen for All Ages

Courtesy of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

Courtesy of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

Although some people believe that fashion is sacrificed when functionality takes precedence, the opposite is true when it comes to a concept known as universal design. “Universal design” is a term that broadly refers to the idea that all design—products, technologies and structures—should serve the broadest range of people, regardless of ability, mobility, age, gender or physical stature, without adaptation or specialized features. Universal design is especially important when it comes to designing a kitchen. From appliances to counter height, a kitchen space should be created with the end user in mind.

When adding onto or redesigning a kitchen for older adults, it helps to remember the following principles, which are meant to ensure flexibility and to include simple and intuitive products and appliances.

  1. The kitchen’s design should make it equally usable by everyone. In other words, the way the kitchen is configured should never isolate or stigmatize any group of users or privilege one group over another.
  2. The kitchen should be designed so people can use its features in more than one prescribed way—for example, it might have a countertop orientation map that’s viewable from either a seated or standing position.
  3. The purpose of each feature in the kitchen should be easy for everyone to understand. All of the kitchen’s features should also be easy to use, without any hidden or confusing features.
  4. The kitchen should provide all essential information in more ways than one—written, symbolic, tactile and verbal—to make sure everyone who comes through it can understand how to use different features regardless of their abilities. This simply means that instructions should be visible or audible at all times.
  5. The design of the kitchen should eliminate, isolate or shield any design features that could be hazardous or inconvenient to any user. Hard or sharp edges, malfunctioning appliances or out-of-date materials should be removed from the space.
  6. The kitchen’s design should include features that require little or no physical strength to use.
  7. There should be enough space and appropriate arrangements in the kitchen so that anyone can use it.

Ideally, universal design means good design that can be used in any setting. With these points in mind, let’s explore ways to create a fashionable and functional kitchen for all ages.

 

General Considerations for a Fashionable and Functional Kitchen

Courtesy of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

Courtesy of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

First and foremost, the kitchen should be accessible to everyone. As the heart of the home, the kitchen is a place where families get together, where weekday date nights happen and midnight snacks are gathered. For older adults, a well-designed kitchen space is a big help in maintaining independence.

Start by making sure the flooring in your kitchen is flat and smooth. This is especially critical for adults who need wheelchairs, walkers or extra assistance in getting around. If you want to add an area rug, opt for a short-pile material over thicker, nubby textures that can cause snagging underfoot.

Next, choose convenient, stair-less parts of the kitchen to install appliances like ovens, stoves and refrigerators for easy accessibility. Everyone should be able to lend a helping hand when preparing family dinners, whether it’s grabbing eggs from the fridge or sliding cookies into the oven. Lastly, make sure your kitchen design offers plenty of accessible storage. Not only does storage reduce kitchen clutter, it also keeps work surfaces neat and clean, which helps avoid spills or accidents.

 

Elements of a Safe and Comfortable Kitchen

Courtesy of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

Courtesy of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

While universal design offers the basics for creating a safe kitchen space, the term doesn’t necessarily connote coziness. Here are some of our favorite ways to create a kitchen that satisfies safety measures as well as a comfortable space for all to enjoy:

  • If you don’t cook often, you won’t necessarily need a traditional kitchen island. Instead you could use a kitchen cart or mobile island. These can be rolled in if you need an extra work surface and move it out of the way when not in use to make the kitchen more open and accessible.
  • Use lighter colors to brighten the space. Lighter, brighter hues make your space look larger and more inviting while also allowing you to see every square inch clearly.
  • Install more floor cabinets and less overhead cabinetry. As we age, our agility and mobility wanes. When redesigning or renovating your kitchen, keep in mind cabinet height. Upper cabinets should be no more than 4 feet from the floor, as the lower height makes them easier to reach from a sitting or standing position.
  • Select countertops at varying heights to accommodate sitting and standing, especially for older adults. Give your future self and older loved ones a break by making sure your counter heights are optimized for working while standing and seated.

 

Comfortably Accessing Appliances

Courtesy of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

Courtesy of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

Last but certainly not least, making sure you can access your favorite kitchen appliances is essential to a kitchen remodel. One way to do this is by raising the dishwasher 8 inches above the floor to help facilitate loading and unloading. This is also great if you have nieces, nephews or grandchildren who come over often and need a helping hand in reaching the dishes.

If you’re doing a complete remodel, consider updating all of your appliances. Not only will brand new appliances enhance the look and feel of your space, they also help ensure easier access and use for everyone. Lastly, consider small appliances where appropriate. Smaller appliances that are lightweight and easy to grip mean more kitchen space to moving around in and a safer, sleeker overall look.

What are some changes you’re considering in your kitchen remodel? We’d love to hear your tips and tricks on designing a safe and comfortable space for all ages!

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Interior design specialist Kerrie Kelly heads up her own firm, Kerrie Kelly Design Lab, and is also a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS). Kerrie writes on design topics of interest to seniors and other age groups for Home Depot. To research kitchen utility tables as part of a senior-friendly kitchen plan, you can visit Home Depot’s website.